Academic Holding Pattern

When it comes to writing the generic “start of the term” post, I have a couple of problems. While our trip to Europe earlier this month was a lot of fun, it wasn’t exactly relaxing. It was more of one of those great “trips” that require a bit of a “vacation” for recovery. So in a sense, I have kind of been making that vacation now, even though I’ve been sitting in on the training sessions for graduate assistants that Linda AK is leading before she hits sabbatical and hands me the keys to the first year writing program store– more on that in a bit.

And then there’s the whole faculty union stuff. But that’s the subject of a different (tomorrow’s?) post.

In any event, even the threat of a strike casts quite a shadow on the beginnings of the term, especially when it comes to the advising and quasi-administrative work that is going to make up the bulk of my work this year– again, more on that in a bit. I found myself last night going through a backlog of email and telling students, potential students, and other advisees that I will be available next week– unless we’re on strike. That’s kind of annoying, and while I suppose the union negotiators can be blamed for some of this, I mostly blame the administration and I really REALLY blame the lawyer that the university hires to break negotiate with the union. I am certain that if this guy was not at the table, the folks from the faculty and the folks from the administration would have worked out a deal months ago. But the lawyers get paid by the hour, and they get paid to bring us to the brink, right?

Oh wait– I said that was going to be a different post….

Besides this academic holding pattern created by a combination of my body/soul forcing a post-trip “break” and the relative uncertainty of the start of the term, I feel like my non-academic life is in a bit of a holding pattern, too. Our son doesn’t start school until after Labor Day, and oh my, we are all soooo ready for him to go back to school. The Washtenaw County Rec Center, which is where I go to work out (when I go to work out) is closed until September 1, which has thwarted my plans to start getting in shape right after our trip.

Anyway, I know this hold will end eventually. And when it does, when the term really does start, I will begin what will be I hope a very interesting year as a sort of faculty/administrator. I have been the “writing program coordinator” in our department since January. My charges in that job are to more or less run the undergraduate majors in professional and technical writing and our graduate programs in professional writing and teaching of writing. In addition to that, I’m going to be the “interim director of first year writing,” which is what Linda usually does and which is more akin to what most people think of as a WPA. I’m the go-to person for the 120 or so sections of first year writing we have each term, I’m the one who has to do all sorts of miscellaneous paperwork and meeting associated with all of that, and I’m going to take over the teaching of the course our grad students take to get ready to teach first year writing. Linda is teaching the part that meets for two weeks before the term begins right now.

So thing number 1 on my agenda for next year: Don’t screw up the Interim WPA thing too badly. Given the great incoming students we have and the support I’ll be getting from some other folks here (along with Linda from a short distance away), I think this is a goal I will be able to meet.

Agenda item #2: read (and not write) some scholarship. There’s two basic reasons for this. First, with my various quasi-administrative roles, I just don’t know how much time I’m going to have to work a lot on new articles or whatever, God forbid a book. Second, as I elluded to in my earlier posts about my academic mid-life crisis, I kind of feel like that if I don’t have a “burning project” I just have to do, then it would perhaps be a better idea to not do anything for a while. So I’m looking forward to just reading stuff for a year or so.

Well, other than at least one conference presentation.

Finally, there is agenda item #3: Get in better shape. This is an annual agenda item for me, of course. But given item #2, I might actually have a little more time to do this one this year….

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